Fitness and body building bloggers going crazy over nitric oxide

One of the trendiest topics in the health industry is nitric oxide. Blogs all over the web are talking about it and it’s not loosing popularity. What’s so important about it that’s creating so much buzz? Let’s look at the details of what it is and how it is being used.

Nitric oxide is an essential component that everyone needs in their body to keep key physiological functions on the right track, especially bodybuilders. Nitric oxide supplements can prove useful in increasing levels by increasing blood flow in certain parts of the body and reduce the buildup of lactic acid thus increasing the efficiency of a workout [1]. However, ingesting them long term can result in a number of other ailments which can crop up during later years.

Besides the inability to sustain long bodybuilding sessions, signs of nitric oxide deficiency include the inability to maintain an erection, extreme fatigue and physical weakness. However, if this component is sufficient in the body it can benefit in a number of ways.

The Benefits of Nitric Oxide

As discussed before nitric oxide is particularly important for athletes and bodybuilders who spend most of their time working out or performing in the field. A continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients means that people can exercise for longer periods of time irrespective of the sport they are taking part in or the workouts they indulge in [2].

Since cardiac response and blood flow are elevated during rigorous physical activities, the muscles get a continuous supply of oxygen. However, when that supply depletes, it can lead to the production of lactic acid which eventually leads to muscle fatigue. At that point continuing any exercise is out of the question.

Sufficient nitric oxide in the bloodstream can prevent this from happening too quickly during a workout. Eating green vegetables can increase and speed up the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to stressed muscles thus improving performance. It also speeds up the removal of ammonia which can be produced in the body during rigorous workouts and it also extends glucose intake by cells exponentially. In fact, NO is known for benefiting the body on a cellular level by:

  • Improving memory and behavior by transmitting info between cells in the body.
  • Aiding the immune system in battling bacteria and preventing tumors from forming.
  • Improving sleep quality.
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Increasing endurance and strength.

Most of the benefits on the list are directly linked to cardiovascular health which is directly linked to NO production in our bodies. The inner walls of our arteries produce nitric oxide and when plaque starts to build up, that is when all of the problems start. At that point our bodies stop producing nitric oxide on a regular basis which is why most doctors prescribe this for heart patients. It is also prescribed to those who suffer from erectile dysfunction in the form of Viagra which contains high amounts of this component. The supplement works by acting on enzymes in the NO pathway causing a chain reaction that enhances its production as well as blood flow.

Increasing Nitric Oxide Levels in the Body

The most common way to increase NO levels in the body is through exercise, a fact that bodybuilders know all too well. When we run or lift weights, our muscles require more oxygen which is supposed to be supplied by our blood. As the heart starts pumping hard the inner lining of the arteries releases nitric oxide which widens arterial walls. This allows more blood to pass through and decreases the effect of lactic acid.

However, when we get older our blood vessels lose a lot of their efficiency due to damage by free radicals, poor diet and inactivity. As a result arteries and veins thin out and compromise blood flow thus making exercise hard.  Compare it to a fire hose; if it is pinched water will not be able to flow at the same speed and pressure. The same is the case with deteriorating arteries; once they start to weaken, blood cannot reach organs and muscles at the same pace and NO production comes to a grinding halt.

There are supplements in the market that can boost NO production but they come with their risks. The main ingredients that they comprise of are citrulline and arginine, two amino acids that produce nitric oxide levels in the body. The former targets lactic acid production by reducing it thus extending the time until muscle failure. The latter can improve workout efficiency by increasing the capacity of blood carrying oxygen to the muscles but only if it is taken with glutamine and BCAAs.

However, one of the most important effects of these supplements for bodybuilders is the ability to increase the production of growth hormones that are responsible for cell and tissue growth. That’s because arginine can reduce the production of somatostatin, a hormone which can reduce production of said growth hormone. In other words, this ingredient has a direct impact on muscle growth and is of particular interest to bodybuilders when its supply is limited in the body.


Side effects and Warnings

There are certain side effects to ingesting more arginine than the body is used to. Most of our supply is fulfilled if we can maintain a standard diet. However, some people have to take them if they suffer from malnutrition. That is not a good idea for bodybuilders though. Taking excessive amounts of arginine either with supplements or with a diet filled with red meat, fish, dairy and poultry can lead to side effects that an amino acid overdose can cause. These include diarrhea, nausea and fatigue which is not good for those who wish to increase muscle mass or lose weight.

This is one of the main reasons why supplements containing high arginine levels were banned by the US in 2010 and by major sport organizations. This includes caffeine and synephrine which are primary components in the most supplements that contain arginine.

In conclusion it would be best to make the body adept enough to produce its own nitric oxide rather than depend on supplements that can do more harm than good for the body in the long run. Maintaining a strict and balanced diet can go a long way in ensuring natural production.